AT Inbox: Simpler times at the Soda Shop

Dear Robyn,

I recently had the opportunity to read the Sept. 17 issue of The Antique Trader. I especially enjoyed the article on soda pop shops. I couldn’t put it down.

This subject is of particular interest to my wife Karen and me because of the great memories it brought back.

For me, it was stopping at Richey’s Rexall (Erie, Kan.) after school for a Coke.

For my wife, it was about her grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. Hildebrand, who ran the Will Rogers Sundries & Gifts in the Will Rogers Hotel in Claremore, Okla. As I understand it, when they bought the store it had been called a drug store, but they had to change the name because he wasn’t a pharmacist and so they didn’t sell drugs. However, they did have a very popular soda fountain. In fact, that is where my Uncle Sam Webb met his future bride, Louise. She was the pretty 19-year-old daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Hildebrand, who helped behind the counter. Sam finally worked up his courage to go in and talk to her. It must have been a good conversation because they celebrated their 62nd wedding anniversary this past July.

With all the history with soda shops for my wife and me, it was no wonder we jumped at the chance to buy the restored soda fountain bar from the Alvin Hotel, Tulsa, Okla. Included with the bar was the original light fixtures and glasswork.

We turned the main room of our pool house into a blast from the past. In addition to the bar, we have 1900-1910 National Cash Register ready to ring up the latest sale of a malt (made with the Hamilton Beach Drinkmaster) or hot fudge sundae (with hot fudge from the Nesbitt’s Hot Fudge Sundae Maker) or just a dip of ice cream (from the Schaefer Ice Cream Box with four push dispensers and five topping containers to give everyone their choice of favorite toppings).

To enhance the experience, we have a 1954 Seeburg Select-O-Matic One Sixty jukebox, a 1950s-era pay telephone, candy machine, and a 1930s-era General Electric refrigerators that we use daily. Of course everything works.

What is a soda with a game of pinball? We have that, too. We have a collection of pinball machines. Although our young children don’t appreciate them as much as their Playstations.

Now in my early 50s, I find there is nothing better than putting in a nickel in the jukebox and listening to Elvis Presley while enjoying a Coke and playing a little pinball. Now that’s livin’!

Thanks again for the great story on soda shops.

— Mark Ogle
Claremore, Okla.

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